The long-term effects of visible light on the eye

Arch Ophthalmol. 1992 Jan;110(1):99-104. doi: 10.1001/archopht.1992.01080130101035.


The relationship between exposure to sunlight and senile cataract, age-related macular degeneration, pterygium, and climatic droplet keratopathy was examined in 838 watermen who work on the Chesapeake Bay. The presence and severity of lenticular, corneal, and macular changes were assessed by either clinical examination or from stereo macular photographs. From detailed exposure histories, ocular exposure was estimated for three bands of visible radiation-violet (400 to 450 nm), blue (400 to 500 nm), or all visible (400 to 700 nm)-as well as for UV-A (320 to 340 nm) and UV-B (290 to 320 nm). The results with each band of visible radiation were similar. Neither cortical nor nuclear cataract was associated with ocular exposure to blue or all visible radiation, but pterygium and climatic droplet keratopathy were more common with higher exposures. Compared with age-matched controls, patients with advanced age-related macular degeneration (geographic atrophy or disciform scarring) had significantly higher exposure to blue or visible light over the preceding 20 years (odds ratio, 1.36 [1.00 to 1.85]) but were not different in respect to exposure to UV-A or UV-B. These data suggest that high levels of exposure to blue or visible light may cause ocular damage, especially later in life, and may be related to the development of age-related macular degeneration.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cataract / epidemiology
  • Cataract / etiology
  • Corneal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Corneal Diseases / etiology
  • Eye / radiation effects*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Macular Degeneration / epidemiology
  • Macular Degeneration / etiology
  • Male
  • Maryland / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Pterygium / epidemiology
  • Pterygium / etiology
  • Sunlight / adverse effects*
  • Visual Acuity